- HBO has done it again with its ongoing hit post-apocalyptic series, The Last of Us, which is breaking records and attracting audiences from around the globe. TLoU‘s premiere was viewed for over 200 minutes within the first few hours, and each new episode continues to stir up discussions among a growing fanbase. It’s safe to say that the show is quickly becoming one of the great series that reinforce the slogan “It’s Not TV, It’s HBO.”
The HBO original series Game of Thrones prequel and successor, House of the Dragon, has recently gained headlines for its epic scope, sophistication, depth, and well-written plot that once gave GoT fame and acclaim. Once more, the program is produced by HBO, a premium subscription television network known for its slogan, “It’s Not TV, It’s HBO.”
Since the phrase was made public in 1996, the network has done a remarkable job of living up to its reputation by consistently putting out top-notch programming. The network continually receives multiple awards, and with its high-caliber series, it not only wins over moviegoers but also the most demanding critics.
Updated on February 22nd, 2023, by Hannah Saab:
HBO has done it again with its ongoing hit post-apocalyptic series, The Last of Us, which is breaking records and attracting audiences from around the globe. TLoU‘s premiere was viewed for over 200 minutes within the first few hours, and each new episode continues to stir up discussions among a growing fanbase. It’s safe to say that the show is quickly becoming one of the great series that reinforce the slogan “It’s Not TV, It’s HBO.”
1 ‘Band of Brothers’ (2001)
Band of Brothers is a war drama miniseries based on a 1992 non-fiction book of the same name written by historian Stephen E. Ambrose. The show dramatizes the history of “Easy” Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. A little literary license was used in the series adaptation of history for dramatic effect and plot development.
It’s unlikely that any war film has better depicted the diverse experiences of regular troops than this binge-worthy miniseries. From the beginning, the storytelling format is different. The viewers can’t help but develop a bond with every soldier because you stick with them throughout all 10 episodes. HBO is at its very best with Band of Brothers because it shows the horror of war and increases viewers’ appreciation for peacetime.
2 ‘The Wire’ (2002 – 2008)
The Wire is a crime drama TV show created and written by author and former police reporter David Simon. Each season of The Wire, set and produced in Baltimore, Maryland, introduces a new institution of the city and how it relates to law enforcement while maintaining characters and moving the plot along.
By not being shy from showing its audience a grimmer reality, The Wire delivered one of the most satisfying series finales in TV history and is regarded as one of the best drama shows ever produced. Most importantly, the show’s multifaceted portrayal of the city offers a profoundly complicated look at the ways in which many lives and cultures connect. Moreover, the attention to detail in The Wire is so meticulous that it astounds viewers.
3 ‘Game of Thrones’ (2011 – 2019)
Game of Thrones is a fantasy drama television series created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss for HBO and based on George R. R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels, A Song of Ice and Fire. The show is set on the mythical continents of Westeros and Essos and boasts a big ensemble cast and follows numerous plot arcs during the course of 8 seasons.
Despite the show’s complex storytelling and somber themes potentially overwhelming some viewers, Game of Thrones is a visually captivating, well-acted, cleverly written, and very well-developed television series that garnered lots of accolades throughout its runtime. Although its last season and terrible series finale were rather disappointing, the program is still recognized as one of the best fantasy shows ever produced.
4 ‘The Sopranos’ (1999 – 2007)
The Sopranos is a crime drama TV series created by David Chase that follows a New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster, Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), who struggles to strike a balance between his family life and his position as the head of a criminal enterprise.
The Sopranos is a psychologically complex and artistically free work that produces something intimate but not obtuse or sour. By using violence, murder, injustice, and yet also a fantastic display of the underground world that fans feel lucky to have a glimpse at, The Sopranos‘ iconic episodes constantly serve as a reminder to viewers that it is not TV, it is HBO.
5 ‘Succession’ (2018 – )
Succession is a black comedy-drama television series created by Jesse Armstrong that focuses on the Roy family, who operate the worldwide media and entertainment conglomerate Waystar RoyCo as they battle for control of the business while Logan Roy (Brian Cox), the patriarch of the family, is ill.
Succession manages to be immensely entertaining despite its intense drama because of its dark humor and clever sarcasm. Moreover, the show excels because it comprehends clearly familial trauma, family dynamics, and how one parent’s actions affect their children, in addition to the filthy affluent and power beyond comprehension.
6 ‘Deadwood’ (2004 – 2006)
Deadwood is a Western television series created by David Milch that is set in the late 1800s and follows characters created with both significant fictional elements and historical truths from Deadwood, South Dakota, a town with a history of serious corruption and crime. Milch based the show’s plot, characters, and aesthetic decisions on the real journals and newspapers kept by Deadwood residents in the 1870s.
Deadwood addressed every notion at the core of our society throughout its three-season run from how we can all agree that money will always reflect value to how even the worst of us can improve as individuals. Moreover, when delivered by some of TV’s best actors, Milch’s dialogue stood out as some of the best and most lyrical in the medium’s history. From the exquisite filming that unites its many characters into a grand thread to the unexpectedly funny moments, Deadwood is a treasure of a television program that demonstrates HBO’s preeminence.
7 ‘Oz’ (1997 – 2003)
Tom Fontana is the creator and main writer of one of HBO’s best shows, Oz, a drama television series that takes place in a fictitious men’s prison. The program depicts the daily operations of a peculiar prison and its criminal inmates. “Oz” is a nickname for the fictional level 4 maximum-security state prison in New York known as the Oswald State Correctional Facility.
No television program can compare to the violence in Tom Fontana’s prison drama Oz, which is believed to inspire the birth of The Sopranos. Moreover, like Game of Thrones, Oz has a lot of characters who may be considered main characters, and they are all well-written and developed with great room for unpredictability.
8 ‘Six Feet Under’ (2001 – 2005)
Six Feet Under is a drama television series created and produced by Alan Ball which portrays the lives of the Fisher family, owners of a Los Angeles funeral home, as well as their family, friends, and lovers.
The show always managed to make viewers laugh even though each episode started with a fatality. Moreover, despite the show’s theme of mortality, the performances, and sharp writing consistently gave viewers a vivid sense of life. Also, the portrayal of homosexuality and lesbianism in Six Feet Under has been unreserved. The reason it’s HBO is that it makes tragedy absolutely approachable and appetizing.
9 ‘Rome’ (2005 – 2007)
Rome is a historical drama and an underrated HBO show that takes place in the first century BC, while Rome was changing from a republic to an empire. The major heroes of the story are primarily two soldiers named Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson), whose lives get entwined with significant historical events despite the series’ expansive cast of characters, many of which are based on genuine people from historical records.
The series’ most audacious historical stretches are made realistic, coherent, and, of course, theatrically impactful through excellent writing. Moreover, Rome isn’t a typical period drama but one that embraces the darkest, most debaucherous features of the period in which it’s set to tell the most legendary and realistic story ever. Additionally, Rome shows the humanity behind those men at war rather than just the pointless fighting and inessential violence.
10 ‘Veep’ (2012 – 2019)
Veep is a political satire comedy TV series created by Armando Iannucci and based on his sitcom, The Thick of It. The show centers on Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a fictional Vice President of the United States, and her team as they try to leave their mark and a legacy but frequently get caught up in daily political shenanigans.
The show’s razor-sharp humor and writing are both excellent, and Louis-Dreyfus is at her best, as she delivers every laugh with grace, charm, and power. Every single member of this series is deserving of being the star of their own show for playing their roles to perfection. The program showcases HBO’s dark comedy at its finest, which not only makes viewers laugh but also think and express gratitude that the actual political situation is not as dire as the program suggested.
11 ‘Chernobyl’ (2019)
An award-winning historical miniseries centered on the events of the harrowing 1986 nuclear disaster, Chernobyl thrusts viewers into the perspective of a Soviet nuclear physicist, Valery Legasov (Jared Harris). He has a challenging time trying to persuade the government to take containment measures following the explosion, and soon, the radiation levels threaten not just the local community, but the whole world.
A large part of what makes Chernobyl such a successful show is its unflinching depiction of people’s mistakes following the accident. What’s more, it doesn’t shy away from brutal depictions of the horror and chaos right after the explosion, albeit with some level of inaccuracy. The series manages to portray the story with emotional depth, thoughtfulness, and boldness.
12 ‘Big Little Lies’ (2017 – 2019)
Based on the eponymous novel by Liane Moriarty and created by David E. Kelley, Big Little Lies is a renowned drama series centered on five well-written characters. Set in Monterey, California, the show revolves around the five women (played by Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Zoë Kravitz), who find themselves involved in a murder investigation.
There may be a murder mystery at its core, but the series is about so much more than that horrific night. It also explores women’s lives and the societal pressures that come with small communities and motherhood. More serious subjects like domestic violence are gracefully handled on the show, too, which will have viewers emotionally attached to the main characters before they realize it.
13 ‘Euphoria’ (2019 – )
A show that depicts the high school experience in a wholly unique way, Euphoria is centered on a group of students who deal with hard-hitting issues like drug addiction, sex, violence, and existential crises. It primarily focuses on Rue Bennett (Zendaya), who is a recovering drug addict struggling with her journey to sobriety and her complicated relationship with Jules Vaughn (Hunter Schafer).
Euphoria is known for chilling scenes that can sometimes be incredibly unsettling. Its dark yet realistic storylines are set against a backdrop of mesmerizing visuals and an emotional soundtrack. Of course, the character-driven show would be nowhere without the drama that’s always unfolding within the lives of its complex characters, most of whom fans have grown to love throughout the years.
14 ‘The White Lotus’ (2021 – )
From creator Mike White, The White Lotus is a black comedy-drama anthology series set in idyllic locations (Hawaii and Sicily so far) with not-so-idyllic vacationers. It delves into the stories of the characters, which include a newlywed couple with glaring issues, a rich woman struggling with grief, a dysfunctional family full of secrets, and more. Oh, and there’s a murder mystery, too.
Wacky, dark, and insightful all at once, The White Lotus manages to weave together satirical tales that highlight the worst in society and people in general. Its writing is clever and deft, and its pacing will keep viewers hooked from start to finish.
15 ‘The Last of Us’ (2023 – )
No one was sure how creator Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann‘s TV adaptation of Naughty Dog’s legendary game series would turn out. A few record-breaking episodes later and it’s now safe to say that HBO’s The Last of Us is fast becoming the prime example of a video game adaptation done right. Starring Pedro Pascal as the jaded father figure, Joel, alongside Bella Ramsey as the wise-cracking and remarkably complex Ellie, the show has consistently amazed fans and critics with both its faithfulness to the source material and the brilliance of its innovative additions.
Joel and Ellie are quickly turning into one of the most popular survivor duos in the post-apocalyptic zombie niche – it helps that their journey happens against jaw-dropping set pieces, fascinating side characters (like Bill and Frank), and a truly engaging story that keeps audiences coming back for more week after week. It’s undeniably HBO’s latest “Sunday night” phenomenon that will hopefully keep the momentum going until the highly anticipated finale.